When nothing was seemingly going right for the Ravens’ struggling offense, it was linebacker Terrell Suggs who gave them the inspiration.
In a subtle way, Suggs, playing in just his second game of the season since coming back from an Achilles tear, helped the offense overcome a late deficit to beat the Cleveland Browns 25-15 on the road.
“I remember Terrell Suggs sitting over there saying, ‘We’ll hold them from scoring touchdowns, you guys go ahead and put a drive together and let’s win this game,” said running back Ray Rice, who had a season-high 25 carries for 98 yards and a touchdown. “Just hearing from a guy who battled through that kind of injury, we owe it to him, we owe it to ourselves, we out it to the organization.”
This may not have exactly how the Ravens (6-2) envisioned coming out of the bye week as the hurry-up offense went into hibernation again.
The Ravens took a 14-point lead in the first quarter with Rice getting in from eight yards and rookie Bernard Pierce sprinting in on a third-down play from 11 yards out for his first touchdown as a pro.
But quarterback Joe Flacco continued to struggle away from home, going 15-for-24 for just 153 yards and one touchdown.
His scoring pass of 19 yards to Torrey Smith, however, was the game-winner. The Ravens had fallen behind 15-14 because of five field goals by Browns kicker Phil Dawson, but Flacco led them on a nine-play, 81-yard drive.
Smith's catch, pivot and run was the first big play in the passing game for Baltimore. Then Flacco completed a two-point conversion to Anquan Boldin and Justin Tucker added a late field goal for the final margin.
“We did a good job mixing it up a little bit in the first quarter,” said Flacco, who is unbeaten in 10 career games vs. Cleveland. The last time Baltimore lost to this team was 2007, the season before Flacco’s rookie season and John Harbaugh’s arrival as coach. “After (the first quarter) … those guys did a good job of creating some negative plays for us. It was tough to convert.”
The Ravens had 11 first downs to begin the game but Flacco couldn’t engineer his team to another one until late in the fourth.
Even though the Browns were trailing from the start, they got back in it by sticking with rookie running back Trent Richardson, who had just 47 yards on 14 carries in a 23-16 loss to Baltimore in Week 4.
Richardson compiled 76 of his 105 yards in the first half as Cleveland was able to control the clock and wear out a defense that already came in short-handed.
Defensive end Pernell McPhee sat out because of a thing injury and tackle Haloti Ngata was limited by a sore shoulder. But the Ravens, who had allowed an average of 207 rushing yards per game in the last three games, responded.
The Browns gained 116 overall, marking a significant improvement for a defense that was No. 2 in the NFL against the run a season ago when it held teams to less than 100.
Rice wasn’t as effective after the first quarter, but Baltimore didn’t go away from him like they did in past weeks.
He had 10 carries above his season average of 15. The hard-fought victory erased the bad taste of a 43-13 drubbing the Ravens took at the Houston Texans going into the bye week.
“It’s great to come on the road, not do anything fancy, and figure out a way to win,” Rice said.